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Album review: Neil Young, ‘The Monsanto Years’

Neil Young set the bar high for protest songs with “Ohio,” a 1970 stunner about the National Guard killing of four Kent State students. But “Living With War,” his 2006 album about President George W. Bush, was a dud, and so is this new one, on which Young, a cofounder of Farm Aid, rips Monsanto for its genetically engineered seeds and herbicides. He takes further shots at Walmart, Starbucks, Chevron, and Citizens United. His lyrics are attack-mode political — has anyone rhymed “pesticide” and “poison tide” before? — but also corny to the max in “A New Day for Love” and “People Want to Hear About Love,” which feel like campfire singalongs. Most of the songs are unnervingly simplistic, and reflect bad chemistry with his backing band, Promise of the Real (which contains Willie Nelson’s sons Lucas and Micah). Harmonies are sloppy and Young reaches for notes he can no longer attain. Monsanto executives are probably relieved. (Out Tuesday)

STEVE MORSE

Essential “Big Box”

Neil Young and Promise of the Real perform at Xfinity Center on July 22.

spmorse@gmail.com